Stuck inside with nowhere to go, homeowners everywhere have been investing in creating or upgrading their outdoor living areas, transforming plain backyards into a relaxing retreat for summer fun.

Tom Ball, President of Ground Affects Landscaping in Sullivan, has seen an increase in calls to build out outdoor entertaining areas over the last year.

Even in this Midwestern climate, patio kitchens and casual dining areas are more popular than ever, allowing for grilling nearly year-round. Wood structures and pergolas provide privacy and shade on sunny days and fire features are perfect for warming up on cooler nights.

Innovative lighting options can help round out outdoor spaces. LED lighting extends the fun to endless summer nights, boosting ambiance and home security. Color-changing lights are also trending (think red, white, and blue for the Fourth of July or the colors of your favorite sports team).

Ground Affects can help with projects of all sizes, from new plantings to retaining wall installations to a full backyard makeover. Their expert professional design team works closely with homeowners from consultation to completion to create the perfect backyard oasis.

“We take pride in quality and in having a great group of employees who are dedicated, work hard, and pay attention to detail,” Ball says.

Cooking al fresco

Ground Affects can help you customize the perfect outdoor kitchen. Popular design elements include:

  • Built-in grill
  • Built-in bar and seating area
  • Pizza oven
  • Refrigerator and sink

Ball’s advice to homeowners looking to spruce up their outdoor space? First, get started right away. Most projects, especially in Wisconsin, are best done late spring through early fall.

Next, do your homework but don’t waste time requesting bids from too many companies. Find two or three you’d feel comfortable with and choose one to start on your design. This will save you energy and help build a long-lasting relationship for future projects and fixes.

Victory Homes of Wisconsin

For a luxurious home, both inside and out, trust Victory Homes of Wisconsin. Their award-winning team is ready to help you customize every aspect of your new home, from floor plans to roof pitch, to make your unique vision a reality.

Victory Homes of Wisconsin can help you personalize every aspect of your new home, both inside and out.

Victory Homes, an award-winning luxury home builder serving southern Wisconsin, offers clients an array of custom design services and options to fit their unique vision, says David Roembke, partner and vice president of sales.

For home exteriors, Roembke says the current trend they’ve seen among clients is contemporary and modern farmhouse exteriors. Victory Homes carries James Hardie vertical board and batten siding to achieve this rustic look, paired with seam metal roof elements.

The most popular exterior colors are white or dark gray or black siding, Roembke says. Adding in some wood elements, like gable brackets, can “pop the entry or gable details.”

Outdoor Retreat

  • Contemporary or modern farmhouse styling
  • White, dark gray or black siding
  • Wood decorative elements
  • Flat or low-pitch roofs
  • Large front porches

Stone, brick and stucco also are commonly-used materials to add extra style to home exteriors. Roembke says roof styles are trending more flat, or with a low 4/12 roof pitch, and they’ve seen increased interest in rubber membrane roof elements.

Large front porches and outdoor covered living spaces also have been popular among Victory Homes’ clients, according to Roembke.

To bring more natural light into your home, Victory Homes offers options to add a three season room or sunroom. Adding NanaWall folding glass doors can enhance those rooms.

Roembke says Victory Homes also can install outdoor kitchens and outdoor living areas with fireplaces or fire pits. Wolf outdoor grills, Dura Supreme custom cabinets and Thermotek heating elements are among the brands Victory Homes uses to complete these features.

“It really varies based on the application and what the customer is looking for,” Roembke says of brand selection.

Patio trends are ranging from large multi-tiered decks to stained or stamped concrete with an overhead cover.

To learn more about how to build the home you’ve always wanted, visit

Chances are, pandemic stress has weighed you down at least once in the past year. Luckily, you can turn your home into a stress-busting oasis with clever updates to your outdoor spaces. 3 Yard Projects to Consider:

Rain garden

Adaptable and eco-friendly, rain gardens are a dependable way to add value to your property. They’re also a treat for the senses, infusing your yard with floral scents and visual interest. Their signature feature is a depression that collects stormwater and filters out pollutants. Ready to build? A landscaper can help you choose the right size, shape, location and vegetation.

Recreational area

Want to melt stress away in the comfort of your backyard? Consider adding a designated recreational space. According to a recent survey by the American Society of Landscape Architects, many homeowners want multi-use spaces that can accommodate anything from a yoga class to a movie screening. Or, if puppy playtime is your preferred form of stress relief, an area fit for running, rolling and fetching might be just what the doctor ordered.

Fire pit

A backyard fire pit is synonymous with coziness. It’s also an invitation to make s’mores and tell campfire stories. Build a basic one yourself using concrete pavers, or hire a pro to take it to the next level. Want a real conversation piece? Turn your yard into a bistro by adding a gourmet pizza oven.

No matter how you create your outdoor sanctuary, paying for it shouldn’t be stressful. According to Josh Fetting, UW Credit Union’s consumer lending sales manager, a home equity line of credit (HELOC) is a smart choice for many home improvement projects.

“You can borrow exactly what you need, when you need it, and only pay interest on that amount. Not only can it save you money, but it can prevent stress and help you enjoy your home even more,” he says.

UW Credit Union offers home equity products, mortgages, auto loans and more. Visit for details.

Samples of Marling Lumber's deck material choices

Marling Lumber and Homeworks

It’s time to say good-bye to the hassle of deck upkeep. One of the biggest developments in outdoor living is a switch from wood to low-maintenance decking and privacy fencing, according to Josh Ziegler, Branch Manager of the Madison location of Marling Lumber and HomeWorks.

One reason: the price difference between more traditional treated wood or cedar and composite decking and fencing is shrinking. Ziegler has heard from many customers who found that upgrading to composite or PVC fencing and composite decking is far more affordable than they envisioned. Plus, they tend to last for decades and require very little annual maintenance.

Composite decking also comes in a wide variety of colors and finishes to match your taste and style. Ziegler says two-toned or multiple color variations are quite popular right now, along with black exterior windows and doors.

Marling Lumber and HomeWorks can help with bigger backyard renovations, as well. For example, with more families staying at home these days, many homeowners are installing in-ground and above-ground pools and turning to Marling Lumber and HomeWorks for the surrounding decking.

Modernize your deck design

  • Add lighting to bring your deck to life
  • Make your deck stand out with dark accent or border colors
  • Install black aluminum deck railing

Their design team is also available to help make other outdoor living ideas come to life, whether you want to build a new deck, upgrade an existing deck, or even add a screened-in porch or three-season room to your home. You provide the vision and broad measurements, and a designer can put the perfect plan on paper— or even generate a 3D model to make it easier to visualize. They’ll also help find the right contractors to build the project. Plus, Marling Lumber and HomeWorks features an outdoor deck display so you can browse all the available options (not just small sample pieces).